Gov. Tom Wolf gets to know John Fetterman
MANCHESTER — Pennsylvania's governor spent some time Wednesday getting to know his new running mate, a day after Democrats voted to replace the incumbent lieutenant governor on the fall ticket with a mayor who sports arm tattoos with the dates of murders in his economically struggling steel town.
Gov. Tom Wolf had lunch at a cafe near his home with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who beat four others for the nomination. The incumbent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, finished fourth.
At the Manchester Cafe, Wolf ordered tuna salad, and Fetterman a Reuben and fries, while they chatted about Fetterman's family.
Wolf and Fetterman are both from the York area, where Wolf ran the family building products company before winning the governorship four years ago. Fetterman, whose father has an insurance company in York, graduated from Central York High in 1987.
Braddock, Pa. Mayor John Fetterman on his primary win for the Pa. Lt. Governor race tonight pic.twitter.com/LZ7NFCEioH— eau erman (@BeauWTAE) May 16, 2018
The Republican gubernatorial nominee chosen Tuesday also is a Yorker — state Sen. Scott Wagner, whose trash hauling business is located less than a mile from the restaurant where Wolf and Fetterman had lunch.
Wagner spokesman Andrew Romeo said Wolf will "find much to like with the ultraliberal Fetterman — from his support of the budget-busting single-payer health care system and higher taxes for everyone."
Wolf and Fetterman are not strangers — the 6-foot-8, bald and goateed Fetterman said he once hosted Wolf for dinner at his home — but they were also clearly getting to know one another better.
"Sounds corny, I've only ever wanted to help people," Fetterman told Wolf, and shared with him details about the lives of his siblings.
Fetterman emphasized he viewed his role as subordinate to Wolf, looming over the 6-foot tall governor as he vowed to do whatever he can to help him win a second term.
"Gov. Wolf's record stands on its own, and it's a great record to run on," Fetterman told reporters.
Governors and lieutenant governors run for the nomination separately in Pennsylvania, and Wolf has not had a close relationship with Stack.
Asked to describe their professional working relationship, Wolf hesitated and then said it was a good time to thank Stack for his service.
Wolf launched an investigation last year into the treatment of state employees by Stack and his wife and stripped Stack of state police protection.
Fetterman, 48, has long been active in Democratic politics and is known for his efforts to reinvigorate his down-on-its-luck steel town, where he first arrived in 2001 as an AmeriCorps volunteer.
Those efforts — from starting youth programs to attracting artists, farm projects and edgy new businesses to vacant buildings and lots — have made him a minor celebrity in the area and landed him national attention.
Fetterman ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016, but did better in his Democratic primary loss than prognosticators had expected.
The Harvard University-educated, plainspoken Fetterman won his first race for mayor in 2005 by one vote in Braddock, a tiny borough 10 miles east of Pittsburgh, and has been mayor now since 2006.
More recently, he has raised money for college scholarships for Braddock public school students and a culinary training program for residents who work at a new eatery started in town by an award-winning Pittsburgh chef.
Those efforts have helped put Braddock on the map for image-makers in search of grit, including the 2013 movie "Out of the Furnace" and a Levi's jeans commercial in which Fetterman is heard saying, "90 percent of our town is in a landfill somewhere. So reinvention is our only option."
Worth noting: @JohnFetterman being the first person in Pennsylvania history to defeat a sitting Lt. Gov in a primary seems to obliterate the 'Bernie-endorsed candidates can't win' fiction.— David Sirota (@davidsirota) May 16, 2018
Fetterman's style can be irreverent and unconventional, and he is unlike any other mayor.
He tattooed the town's zip code — 15104 — on one forearm and, on the other forearm, the date of every slaying in the borough since he became mayor. He is recognizable for wearing a black short-sleeve work shirt, gray cargo shorts and black high-top shoes.
He said Wednesday he would adapt his personal style to the more buttoned-up rules in the state Senate, where the lieutenant governor presides.
"I do own a couple of suits," he said. "I'm not here to rock that boat."